Recently in Phuket Category

In my last post, I mentioned the small Italian restaurant in Phuket called La Gaetana that Piyawat and I both enjoyed very much. When I got back to Bangkok I looked it up online, and I see that people have been raving about it for quite some time.

So what was so great about it? For starters, the moment you walk into the small shophouse-sized restaurant, you know you are in a special place. The decorations are vaguely home-style Italian, with lots of warm deep colors, and lots of quirky, unique details. The dining area has only 6 tables, so right away you know that chances are good that the food will be prepared with care.

We were waited on by the Italian owner and chief of the restaurant who did an excellent job explaining the specials of the day, the various appetizers and the wines. We ordered a carafe of the Italian house wine, but the table next to us ordered a bottle and we were treated to a grand sommelier show as the owner opened the bottle and decanted the wine for them with great flair. I think that his performance alone is a great reason to upgrade to a full bottle next time!

The food was excellent and the service was amazingly attentive, yet not overbearing. And for desert, the creme brulee (with another table show of caramelizing the sugar on top) was out of this world. Piyawat ordered the tiramisu, and the owner delivered it and signed his name in the powdered chocolate on the plate with a long cinnamon stick. While that might seem completely over the top, it really was quite fitting as his personality and high standards are stamped on every aspect of the restaurant.

So while Phuket might not be my favorite place in the world, I can hardly wait to go back to La Gaetana!


La Gaetana
352 Phuket Road
Muang Phuket Thailand 83000
Tel: 07-625-0523
Closed on Wednesday
Reservations Recommended

Test-Run Weekend in Phuket

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Of all of the areas in Thailand, I have to say that I like the South the least. Perhaps it's because I am not really a beach person. I'll take the mountains and waterfalls of the north, or the rice fields and rivers of the central and northeastern any day over sand, sun, and salty surf in the South. It seems that in Thailand, the beaches are the most likely places to be over developed. The good parts about the natural scene are over-shadowed by drunk, sunburned tourists and pushy trinket vendors.

And yet, it looks like I'll be spending a lot of my time for the foreseeable future in the capital of Thai beach tourism: the southern island of Phuket. So this is a classic "Is the glass half-full or half-empty?" problem. Phuket is a popular tourist spot for a reason. The beaches are beautiful and all western conveniences are within reach. But what would it be like to live there?

Piyawat and I just spent a three-day weekend there to check things out, both for possible business opportunities with Piyawat's friends June and Jug, but also to look around with the frame of mind of possibly living there, and not just vacationing. If there's one thing I've learned is that there's a big difference between living somewhere and just visiting.

And I have to admit that for most of the trip I was having trouble imaging myself living on the island. But we did find pockets of peace and small havens where I could forget where I was. We had fun playing with June and Jug's 1 and 2 year olds at their house down a quiet soi. The village of Nai Harn seems like another good place to get away from the hordes. And we found an incredibly good Italian restaurant in Phuket City. (If nothing else, Phuket seems to have a lot of excellent restaurants.)

I am now back in Bangkok and sitting in traffic again and breathing in bus fumes instead of sea breezes. I dream of getting my scuba certification again and heading back out to the Andaman Islands to visit the coral, the fish, and the manta rays. I think maybe my time in Phuket won't be too bad, as long as I stay away from the beaches on the west side (Patong and the K's: Kata, Karon, and Kamala).

So, a new chapter of my life looks like it's right around the corner and at the moment I am still not completely sure what that new life will be like. Only time will tell. But for now, I have a couple of months to make plans and to prepare myself for what is ahead.

After writing the post a couple of days ago about competition in Thailand, I was reminded of another recent event where my competitive streak came out. Piyawat and I spent last weekend in Phuket, and our hotel just happened to have a Ping Pong table. It had been years since the last time I played, so I wanted to give it a try.

Needless to say, I was terrible. And I hated that. Piyawat and I played about six 10-point games, of which I won exactly ONE. Not only was I losing, I was losing by a lot. I think the average score was around 10-3. The more he trash talked me and made fun of my failures, the more frustrated I became. The more frustrated I became, the worse I played.

Finally, I was able to gain control and play a better game. We finished with a 21-point game. I lost by two, which I was satisfied with. At least I was not beating myself

So that is twice in one week that my competitive nature came out, and it was a real mental exercise to focus and gain control. And in both cases, I was reminded about how Thai people in general are not that competitive. Certainly there are exceptions, but by and large I don't see much desire to "win".

I certainly noticed it in my University students. It was very rare that a student would work extra hard to get the best grade in the class. Most were happy being average. The bell curves for the class were always very steep and tall, with not many pushing themselves to stand out from the crowd on either end of the spectrum. They would also be very willing to do homework for their friends and happy to let people copy from their exams. I'd say that is a rare thing in the US, where most are fighting to "beat the curve".

As I mentioned in the last post, I think that I have learned a lot of patience from living in Thailand. And that is a good thing. But I am not so sure that losing my drive or my competitiveness is so good. Maybe it can be toned down a bit though. Everything should be in moderation, after all, right?

I spent this weekend in Phuket in Southern Thailand with my American friends Mark (who lives in Bangkok) and Clayton (who lives in the US). We got a fantastic package deal: Round-trip airfare on Thai, two nights in the 4-star Amari Resort, airport shuttle and free breakfast buffet for only 5,000 baht (US$125).

One of the days we were there, was spent relaxing in our rooms or at the pool. I usually don't like to do that when I travel, but this hotel was so nice and the beds were so comfy, it was hard to get out of them. Not to mention we spent most of the night before and well into the morning dancing at the Tiger Disco and then Safari Disco.

The other day we were there, we took a boat trip to Phi Phi Island. Unfortunately, it rained the entire day and the seas were quite rough, so it was not a very pleasurable a trip. One cool thing that we did see, however, is a group of cliff-dwelling monkeys. I didn't know that monkeys could swim, but these monkeys were more than happy to jump into the salt-water ocean to retrieve bananas that we threw to them from our boat.

Not only were the low clouds hanging over the island of Phi Phi, an overwhelming sense of sadness and tragedy filled the air as well. Almost everything and everyone on Phi Phi was washed away during the tsunami last December. Nine months later, there are still huge piles of trash and rubble lying around, as well as buildings that had their bottom floors washed out. I didn't see a single smile the entire time I was there. Phi Phi must be the saddest place in Thailand.

But, other than the visit to Phi Phi, the trip was very relaxing and fun. Now it's time to get back to the huge pile of work that I have waiting for me. But maybe I can find some time to post a few of the pictures I have taken on the last two weekends.

Phuket Pictures

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Sunset BoatIt has been a pretty slow week, as far as storytelling goes. It's mid-term exam time, so I have been spending most of my time at work watching kids take tests.

So, for something new and exciting here, I posted some pictures of beautiful Phuket for your viewing pleasure. Check them out in the Pictures of Southern Thailand: Phuket Photo Album.

Last Day in Phuket

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Unfortunately, it's time to go home to Bangkok. Piyawat and I have thouroughly enjoyed our trip to Phuket this weekend.

Today was mostly a relaxing day. Piyawat sat at the pool for most of the day, while I hiked along the rocky coastline below our hotel. It was an amazing walk. I saw a lot of wildlife: three different 3-foot long rock lizards, millions of crabs, little fish which would cling to the rocks as the waves washed in and out, a foot-wide bright pink starfish. Unfortunately I didn't take my camera with me. Shame on me. But we did take a lot of other pictures over the course of the weekend, which I will try to post sometime this week.

We finished the day with a ride into Patong for dinner and one last walk around town. Then we returned the motorcycle in Karon and had a one-hour foot massage. Now it's time to head back to the airport.

Tomorrow: Proctoring Mid-term exams. Wheee!

Nui Beach and Promthep Cape

When I visited Phuket a few years ago, I found a tiny, secluded beach between Kata Beach and the famous sunset viewpoint at Promthep Cape. So today's main task was to find that beach again.

But, as it turned out, it wasn't too hard to find this time. We drove our motorcycle down a red dirt road for about a kilometer from the main road, parked it, and continued on foot for another kilometer down a steep, winding, deeply rutted trail.

Even though the hike back up the mountain to our motorcycle was a killer and the fact that each person is charged 250 baht to enter the beach, it was all worth it. The small beach (which I found out is called Nui Beach) was as beautiful and secluded as I remembered. Piyawat spent about 5 hours there, relaxing on plastic beach chairs under a big umbrella.

As the sun began to go down, we climbed back up to our motorcyle and headed to the Promthep Cape to watch the final 20 minutes of the sunset along with a huge crowd of tourists and Thai locals. We were exhausted from the motorcycle riding and the steep hike at Nui Beach, and so we very much enjoyed sitting on top of the cliffs and watching the sun slowly set, casting a long orange reflection over the water.

Beach, Language, and Phuket Fantasea

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As promised in our hotel's promotional material, the best thing about the hotel is the view. Each room is a private bungalow built on the side of a steep cliff covered in dense vegetation. We started the day with a breakfast buffet at one of the hotel restaurants overlooking a large bay with Karon Beach stretching into the distance.

We finished the free breakfast and walked down the trail and over the rocks to the beach. A short time later we were on a rented motorcycle and touring the western coast of the island. When we grew tired of that game, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool, Piyawat with his Kaplan Grammar Power book and I with my Teach Yourself Thai.

The highlight of the day, however, was attending the Phuket Fantasea, Thailand's answer to Cirque du Soleil. We took the motorcycle north along the coast, through crazy Patong, to Kamala Beach. A big buffet dinner was included in the 1600 baht (US$40) admission fee and since we hadn't eaten since the buffet breakfast (see a pattern here?) we gorged on good Thai food.

I had low expectations for the Fantasea show, since I have yet to see good large-scale entertainment (theatre, concerts, etc) in Thailand. But it turned out to be pretty good. It did a good job of stuffing a lot of traditional Thai culture and mythology into an hour and a half. In other words, there were a lot of trained elephants, quite a bit of silliness, and song-and-dance odes to rice farming. All in all, though, it was a good show that I'd certainly recommend to anyone visiting Phuket.

Air Asia Flight to Phuket

This semester, Fridays are my worst days, as I have to teach for 5 hours. But today I didn't mind at all, since I knew that I was flying to Phuket tonight. Friday rushhours can be hell, but luckily traffic wasn't bad at all and we made it to the airport from school in only 30 minutes.

As I mentioned before, we had booked air tickets on Air Asia. I was curious to see what a "no-frills" Asian airline was like. It turned out to be not so bad at all. It's easy to see where they save money, though. There were no computers at the check-in counter. Instead, our names were checked off of a paper list. Ditto at the gate. The boarding passes are hand-written and seats are not assigned. Drinks and snacks are offered on the flight, but you have to pay for them.

But that's ok. My round trip ticket cost 1300 baht (less than US$40) so as long as they got me and my luggage to the Phuket airport in one piece, I am not going to complain.

There's nothing no-frills about our hotel, though. We figured that since we had saved so much money on the plane ticket, then we could splurge a little on the hotel. We were picked up at the airport by the hotel's private Mercedes taxi and taken to our final destination: Central Villas at Karon Bay. Of course, it was dark when we arrived, so we won't see the promised views of the beach until tomorrow.

Phuket

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There's just something magic about the words. "It's the Friday before a three-day weekend" Add that to, I bought a plane ticket to Phuket for 99 baht (US$2.50) and I can barely contain myself.

That's right, this weekend will be spent on the lovely island of Phuket. I haven't been there since my first trip to Thailand 2.5 years ago. Therefore, I have never posted any pics here from that first trip, so I will be sure to take a few this weekend.

My happiness is not shared by my students today, though, as I am giving both of my sections a test in the second half of class. After this weekend, midterm exams will start. Now that it is exam time, the students become very dilligent in their studies. It's a little odd (yet refreshing) to see Thai kids take something seriously. (Remember, this is a country where I think it is a bit of an insult to be called "serious".) I'm always happy when they show me that they are really interested in learning after all.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Phuket category.

Phang Nga is the previous category.

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